DULUTH — After going missing for a little over a month, well-known Duluth tortoise Flash has returned safely to his home with owners Barbara and Meredith Saiki.
"It's a miracle. I didn't think he was going to be coming back this time," Meredith said. "He looks good; he doesn't have any new scuffs or anything. He seems happy to be back."
The Rio Grande desert tortoise went missing from the Saikis' yard June 25 and was recently discovered by Shelby Johnson cruising along a trail in Chester Park. Johnson was out for a run Tuesday afternoon, July 28, on a quiet stretch of trail when she noticed the tortoise.
"I thought he was wild," Johnson said. "He was just hanging out and seemed really sweet, but my first instinct was not that this was someone's lost pet."
Johnson took a couple photos of Flash and posted them on social media. A friend messaged her a photo of one of the missing posters the Saikis had plastered around the city. Johnson texted the photos to the Saikis and waited for a response. Eventually, she decided to take Flash to her Hermantown home.
"I figured, worst-case scenario, it would be a wild tortoise that I could hang out with for a day," Johnson said. "I didn't want to just leave him there in case he was really their pet."
Having never owned a reptile before, Johnson wasn't sure what to do with Flash once she got him to her house. An internet search informed her that tortoises could eat peppers, so she cut up some green bell peppers and let Flash wander around her backyard.
"It's a pretty large yard, but I had to be out there with him because he just cruises!" Johnson said.
The Saikis were happily reunited with Flash later in the afternoon. In the month that he was missing, Meredith had responded to a couple of false alarms. She was able to reunite a Russian tortoise named Tamara with another family, but hadn't seen head nor tail of Flash.
Flash didn't travel as far away from home this time as he had last time he escaped in 2018. He's known for his 12-day trek when he traveled from his East Hillside home to Duluth Mayor Emily Larson's backyard and was eventually found 9 miles away in Riverside. But Meredith is fairly certain the tortoise's motivation to move was the same both times.
"He's very much in the middle of the mating season," Meredith said. "His glands are puffed up and yellowish, which means he was looking for love, for a partner. That can make them ornery and give them the urge to move."
She's committed to building a tougher enclosure in the family's backyard to help keep him reined in during this time.